Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

11 posts categorized "Music"

A Gift of Song for Bread for World Sunday

Opening plenary session of Bread for the World's 2011 Gathering, on Saturday, June 11, 2011, at American University. (Rick Reinhard)

Across the nation, from pulpit to pew, Christians will renew their commitment to ending hunger as part of the annual Bread for the World Sunday celebrations taking place this weekend, October 19. 

During a special church service, congregations commit themselves to the fight against hunger and poverty through education, prayer, and worship. Many churches will use song to inspire congregants. 

Longtime Bread supporters and co-pastors of Limestone Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, Del., Bruce and Carolyn Winfrey Gillette offer a new hymn they wanted us to share with you. Carolyn has written many original hymns used by Bread for the World members in past worship services.

Carolyn composed, “Is it Lawful to Pay Taxes?” based on the lectionary reading for October 19. In an email to Bread for the World, Bruce wrote, “We hope it will remind people of our shared responsibility to pay taxes, to work for our taxes being used well for the common good and also our ultimate loyalty always is to God.”

Bread for the World is blessed by our talented membership represented by people like Carolyn and Bruce and grateful for their gift of song.

“Is It Lawful to Pay Taxes?”
BEACH SPRING D ("God Whose Giving Knows No Ending")

“Is it lawful to pay taxes when they prop up Caesar’s rule?”
So some people asked of Jesus, wanting him to seem a fool.
Saying “no” would be sedition; saying “yes” would be a sin.
Jesus changed the conversation, calling them to look within.

“Find a tax coin in your treasure; see the image that it bears.
Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. (Give to rulers what is theirs.)”
Yet he pressed on with his message; “Give to God what is God’s own.”
We who bear our Maker’s image worship God and God alone.

Lord of all, in every nation, may your word be understood—
That we have an obligation to support the common good.
May our taxes, all together, fund our working hand in hand
So that life will be made better for all people in this land.

Still, we also hear your teaching: “Give to God what God is due.”
May no ruler—overreaching—try to take the place of you.
May we listen to your message, may we honor what is yours;
May we, living in your image, seek your kingdom that endures.

Biblical References: Matthew 22:15-22; Mark 12:13-17 and Luke 20:20-26. Tune: The Sacred Harp, 1844; attributed to Benjamin Franklin White (MIDI) Text: Copyright © 2014 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved. Email: bcgillette@comcast.net New Hymns: http://www.carolynshymns.com

Singing Songs for 1,000 Days: Carrie Newcomer

Carrie Newcomer is one of the artists who generously contributed music to Bread for the World's Songs for 1,000 Days CD (Publicity photo, Rounder Records).

By Sara Doughton

For singer-songwriter Carrie Newcomer, a long-time activist for causes such as peace-building and protecting the environment, food insecurity and malnutrition are fundamental barriers to a more just and peaceful world.

“Hunger is bracing,” Newcomer says. “It gets right down to the center of the community, because if a child is hungry, they can’t grow, they can’t develop, it’s more difficult to learn. There are a lot of systemic things that happen when a person is hungry.”

When approached about contributing music to Songs for 1,000 Days, the CD compilation dedicated to maternal and child nutrition in the critical window between the beginning of a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday, Newcomer readily agreed. The Rounder Records artist offered a song from Everything is Everywhere, a joint effort with celebrated Indian sarod masters Amjad Ali Khan, Amaan Ali Khan, and Ayaan Ali Khan. All proceeds from Everything is Everywhere benefit Interfaith Hunger Initiative (IHI), a not-for-profit organization bringing together two dozen Indianapolis faith communities working to end child and family hunger.

As a long-time Quaker, Newcomer immediately understood the connection between Bread for the World’s Christian faith and its efforts on behalf of poor and hungry people in the United States and abroad.

“There’s a Quaker idea—the light of God in everyone," Newcomer says. "Each person has a piece of the light within them. Every person. No one is excluded. And when you see the world that way, something like Bread for the World just makes sense. If all the people who are walking around in this world are sacred, then treating them as such becomes an important idea. And when people aren’t doing well, or they’re struggling – if they’re hungry –we can’t ignore it.

“Caring for those who are vulnerable is one of the beautiful things about our spiritual tradition," she continues. "We have to pay attention to that and work toward eliminating hunger, poverty, and injustice whenever we can. It’s the work of the compassionate heart.”

In her work as an artist and advocate, Newcomer relies on lyrics and melodies to call for greater compassion, opportunity, and equality.

“I tell a human story…often when you stand on a soapbox, the doors to people's hearts close immediately," she says. "But, if you sing them a song that’s honest and human…then people will leave their hearts open just a little bit longer. And in that moment there’s an opportunity, and also a responsibility, in terms of what you have to offer.”

As Newcomer opens her listeners’ ears and hearts to those in need, she looks forward to partnering with Bread to raise awareness about the importance of maternal and child nutrition.

“Organizations like Bread for the World give me hope,” Newcomer says. “Sometimes people say hope and mean wishful thinking, or optimism. [But] I think of hope as being an incredibly courageous act – hope is about getting up every morning and working toward that better, kinder, more compassionate world. Hope is about not knowing how it’s going to turn out, and not even knowing if you’re going to see it in your lifetime, but working toward it anyway.

“Bread for the World is really a wonderful example of hope and love made visible. And so I’m excited to be part of this, working in community with Bread.”


Visit the Songs for 1,000 Days web page to learn more about this project, listen to sample clips of songs on the CD, and order a copy of the CD through Bread for the World's store.

Sara Doughton, a former intern in Bread for the World's church relations department, is a student at Yale Divinity School.

Bread for the World at the Wild Goose Festival

Heatherlyn at Wild Gooseresize
Heatherlyn, one of the artists features on the Songs for 1,000 Days CD, performing during the Wild  Goose Festival in Hot Springs, N.C. (Nancy Neal)

By Rev. Nancy Neal

As in years past, Bread for the World was represented at the Wild Goose Festival, which was held in Hot Springs, N.C., in August. With upwards of 3,000 participants and a booth space along the main entrance to the camp ground, we got to see lots of familiar faces and to make some new friends.

Our booth featured the Songs for 1,000 Days CD, and with the daily afternoon rains, it became a little oasis where folks could stay dry and visit with each other. The festival this year was not only on the camp grounds of the Hot Springs Resort and Spa, but it spilled into the surrounding small town with events in its community center and other venues.

I was interviewed on the Doug Paget Radio Show to talk about Bread for the World, the CD, and the 1,000 Days movement. Heatherlyn, who wrote an original piece for Songs for 1,000 Days was the featured musician for the show. We also sponsored a concert featuring the CD. The artists with us included Tracy Howe, who also wrote a song and produced the CD, Heatherlyn, and Bryan McFarland, who is a long-time Bread activist and singer-songwriter. A nice crowd of folks gathered, interested to learn more.

Wild Goose is a community gathered at the intersection of justice, spirituality, music, and art. The main annual event is a four-day, outdoor festival hosted each summer in North Carolina. This year, artist such as Indigo Girls and Speech from Arrested Development were on the main stage; speakers included Vincent Harding, Krista Tippett, Nadia Bolz-Weber, and William Barber.

The Songs for 1,000 Days CD is an initiative that came out of our presence at last year’s festival. It is a collection of songs from 14 artists, four of whom wrote original songs with themes around advocacy and the 1,000 days movement to improve nutrition for women and children in the 1,000 days between the beginning of woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday. The CD is available for order in the Bread store.

Rev. Nancy Neal is Bread for the World's associate for denominational women's organization relations.

A Liberation Poem

Lazarus choir
The choir sings during the premier of Lazarus: The Musical, one of the highlights of Bread for the World's 2013 National Gathering in Washington, D.C. June 2013 (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

God of Power,
God of People,
You are the life of all,
That lives,
That fills the earth,
That brings to birth,
The impetus
Toward making whole
Whatever is bruised
Or broken.

In you we grow,
To know the truth
That sets all creation free.

You are the song
The whole world sings,
The promise
Liberation brings,
Now and forever



Bread offers a variety of worship materials to raise up God's call to end hunger. For more prayers and resources, go here.

Singing Songs for 1,000 Days

By Tracy Howe

Would musicians volunteer to write, sing, and donate songs about the importance of nutrition and food security during the crucial 1,000 days between the beginning of a woman’s pregnancy and a child’s second birthday? I pondered that question when Bread for the World asked me to produce a CD on the theme. After all, the general public gravitates to some concerns more than others. Would artists be willing to sing about this issue?

Worldwide, poor nutrition causes 45 percent of deaths in children under age 5, according to the latest studies published in the Lancet. Stunting occurs in 40 percent of children living in poor countries. Yet low interest in maternal and child nutrition reveals general lack of knowledge about the effects of poverty and poor prioritizing by governments. This situation compels groups like the Women of Faith for the 1,000 Days Movement and Bread for the World Institute to raise awareness.

So I enthusiastically agreed to direct the CD project, knowing that I would find artists who also respond to this vital issue. I approached activists and artists with an international presence who understood the importance of nurturing life at every stage. I asked that they write songs that embody the 1,000 Days campaign, and I searched for existing songs that would help people connect nutrition, advocacy, and faith.

 The result is Songs for 1,000 Days, a compilation project that unites 14 artists around maternal and child nutrition, faith and justice, and God’s love—with tunes ranging from acoustic balladry to new gospel ruckus to Colombian folk.

The CD demonstrates the power of a diverse coalition sharing its passion, knowledge, and talents to live God’s call for peace and justice in the world.

Music, advocacy, and faith have enriched my life from my earliest years. When I began playing and writing music full time, I understood that this was not only my work, but my calling—to serve and love people. I played traditional venues, but I also played prisons, drug rehabilitation centers, and homeless shelters.

We have to remind each other that transformation is possible. We have to show that reality to each other in ways big and small. We have to continue making that which is beautiful in the face of ruin, and so doing, transform it.

As Songs for 1,000 Days reaches an audience of potential allies in the movement to end hunger, I hope that artists and listeners alike will consider how they can make justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God, whatever their vocations.

Listen and learn more about Songs for 1,000 Days at www.bread.org/1000days.

Tracy Howe is the founder of Restoration Village Arts, a nonprofit that facilitates international artistic collaboration and mobilizes artists as effective advocates for positive change.

First Look: 'Lazarus: The Musical'

The first day of Bread for the World's 2013 National Gathering closed with an amazing treat: the debut of a new interpretation of Lazarus!

Lazarus is an original Bread for the World musical about hunger and poverty, created by Rev. Joel Underwood in the 1980s. Last night, a new version, with music and arangements by noted musical director Bill Cummings, debuted. The words and the story, however, were unchanged: the musical was based on the parable, found in Luke 16:19-31, featuring the story of a rich man (Dives) and a beggar (Lazarus) and their relationship in life and in the afterlife.

We'll be uploading a few video and music clips in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, here are a few photos from last night's performance to tide you over.

The Story of Bread for the World's Original Musical 'Lazarus'

Lazarus-poster-small-versionBy Sarah Godfrey

In 1986, Rev.  Joel Underwood, then a Bread for the World staffer, decided to take a sabbatical, but wondered how he would fill those months. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and [Bread for the World founder] Art Simon said, ‘Do what you’ve always wanted to do, but never could,’” Underwood recalls. “I said ‘I want to do a musical.’ He said I should write one on hunger and poverty, and I said ‘Well, gee whiz, why not?’”

Underwood says what immediately popped into his mind was the parable about the rich man and the poor man in Luke 16:19-31. 

“When I went home that evening, I went through that passage with the idea to see how many song titles I could create out of that story,” he recalls. He came up with 21 titles, 19 of which would be used for his musical, Lazarus. “It all fell right into place.”

Lazarus was designed to lift up the problem of hunger, and also be fun to perform, Underwood says. The plan worked: after its 1986 premiere at Catholic University’s Hartke Theatre, the piece (written by Underwood, with music arranged by Louise F. Carlson and Sam V. Nickels) would go on to be performed thousands of times across the globe: in the United States, El Salvador, Australia, India, Egypt, and other countries.

At Bread for the World’s 2013 National Gathering, Lazarus will be performed yet again, this time as a completely reworked, updated version of the original. The new Lazarus debuts Saturday, June 8, at 7 p.m. at the Mead Center for American Theater in Washington, D.C.

“When Joel left, [Lazarus] went by the wayside, but I still saw potential in it,” says Bishop Don diXon Williams, Bread’s associate of African-American church relationships. “If we are talking about being grounded in God’s love and having different resources and ways to get people to become involved in hunger issues and advocacy, to me nothing reaches out more than the arts, than music.”

Continue reading "The Story of Bread for the World's Original Musical 'Lazarus'" »

My Journey with Lazarus

Lazarus-poster-small-versionBy Bill Cummings

"Eating's incredible; eating is good," sings Lazarus, the main character in the Bread for the World eponymous musical. "You have to be grateful ... for each tiny plateful ... of life-giving food," continues the hungry man at center stage of this parable.

Bread members and anti-hunger partners will get a chance to see the revival of this tale of food, justice, and redemption at the 2013 National Gathering on June 8, 2013.

Lazarus debuted in 1987 when Joel Underwood, then director of Church Relations at Bread for the World, decided to shine a light on one of Jesus’ fundamental lessons. The story, found in Luke 16, features a rich man, Dives, who refuses to share with a beggar, Lazarus, in life, but finds that he is the one in need in the afterlife. The musical brings Luke's narrative into today’s world—and into places where extreme wealth and poverty rub against each other.

I was given the gift of bringing new arrangements to Lazarus, learning a great deal in the process. I’ve always loved music: when I was young, our family sang in our little Southern church, and I knew every song in our worn-out hymnal. Throughout my life, from elementary through graduate school, God opened doors allowing me to share my music.

In December of last year, my friend Bishop Donald DiXon Williams, associate for African-American Church Relations at Bread for the World, sent me copies of the original musical score of Lazarus. For weeks I studied it with passion. I ate with Lazarus. I slept with Lazarus.

Music has changed since the debut of Lazarus, and I wanted to make sure that the melodic and harmonic structure felt contemporary—from the very first song, "the Ballad of Lazarus," to the last, "Mustard Seed Faith."

When arranging "Hunger and Poverty Blues," I expanded the bluesy melody to make sure that it would appeal to all music lovers. I know that younger listeners might not be as familiar with the blues as those of us who are lightly over 49.

"Brothers Awake" was created in my mind while jogging. A Latin beat kept it going around in my head until I was back home. I’ve learned that if you have a melody inside of you and you want to keep it forever, you had better hurry and write it down.

While the arranging the music was my first concern, this project also opened my heart—giving me deeper understanding of how hunger and poverty unjustly touch some people in our country and in the world. If this new arrangement of Lazarus can change other hearts and bring about an awareness of hunger and poverty in our country and the world, I feel that my journey with Lazarus will have been particularly harmonious.

Dr. Bill Cummings is a renowned musical director and a producer of Lazarus.

The premiere of this new arrangement of Lazarus will be held at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 8, 2013, in the Kreeger Theater at the Mead Center for American Theater in Washington, D.C. The performance is open to the public, but you need to secure a general admission pass or ticket online.

Lazarus…The Story Sung Again


By Larry Hollar

As a new Bread for the World staff member in the late '80s, I had the chance to perform in the original cast of a new musical on hunger and poverty called Lazarus. Joel Underwood, who was also on Bread’s staff at the time, had taken the story of Lazarus at the rich man’s gate (Luke 16:19-31) and set it to music. He added some twists and turns in the story to challenge people of faith to consider their own responses to the tragedy of hunger in our midst.

Early in my career as a hunger advocate—which has now spanned nearly 30 years—Lazarus gave me a chance to use my musical talents to engage others in the call to justice for hungry people. I was delighted that my then-9-year-old daughter Gillian was also a member of the early cast of the musical, confidently singing a solo as a young girl asking the poignant question, “Where Can I Find Bread?” Later, I had the chance to help stage and perform in this versatile musical in two churches in Arlington, Va., and also sing on the CD of the Spanish-language version, Lázaro. Without question, this musical shaped me in my journey with Bread for the World.

I have come to believe that no movement for social justice can succeed without memorable songs to sustain and enspirit it. Joel’s musical offered singable, engaging songs for the hunger movement of its time. But times change. 

So what a joy it is for me to again be part of a new—and very different—production of Lazarus that premieres in June. An entirely new cast will perform a revamped Lazarus, using Joel’s lyrics but with updated, jazzy music by the talented composer Dr. Bill Cummings. The new Lazarus premieres on Saturday, June 8, at 7 p.m. at the Mead Center in Washington, D.C., as part of the first day of Bread’s 2013 National Gathering

You will not want to miss this special presentation, a result of the passion of my Bread colleague Don Williams, who had the vision to see Joel Underwood’s original compelling work recast for a modern vocal and instrumental idiom. Look for me in the chorus—and my now grown-up daughter will be there, too.

Bread engages us to lift our voices when we advocate to our nation’s leaders on key policies and programs for hungry people. Let’s again lift our voices—this time in song—to give us heart and a fresh dose of the Spirit as we gather June 8-11 in Washington, D.C.,  for the National Gathering. Join us for Lazarus and much more! For more Gathering details, see http://www.bread.org/gathering.

Larry Hollar is senior regional organizer, eastern hub states, for Bread for the World.

Changing the Politics of Hunger, One Direct-Service Organization at a Time

111004_capitalareafoodbankMembers and friends of the Capital Area Food Bank, the largest nonprofit hunger and nutrition education resources in Washington, DC. From Left to Right: Leslie Van Horn, Excecutive Director of Virginia Federation of Food Banks; Lynn Brantley, CEO of Capital Area Food Bank; Congressman James Moran (D-VA); Brian D. Banks, Director of Public Policy and Community Outreach.

Food banks. Food pantries. Soup kitchens. Advocacy. One of these things is not like the others—or is it?

If you ask the staff and volunteers at the Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB), advocacy now goes hand-in-hand with direct-service work. CAFB is the largest, nonprofit hunger and nutrition education resource in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area. In addition to supplying more than 32 million pounds of food to communities across the region each year, CAFB’s mission has grown to include educating, empowering, and enlightening the community about the issues of hunger and nutrition. Now, CAFB is also taking the needs of the community directly to decision makers through strategic, targeted advocacy—and encouraging partner organizations and community activists to do the same.

I interviewed Brian Banks, director of public policy and community outreach at CAFB, for this month’s Breadcast. We discussed the work that CAFB does to urge lawmakers to pay attention to hunger in their communities and use their influence to make a difference. Listen to the full interview below.

On Friday, September 30, the Capital Area Food Bank hosted the Northern Virginia Hunger Summit to help area food providers find their voice. This all-day event featured workshops and discussions to equip attendees with the tools needed to reach out to decision makers and make a difference in the lives of the people they serve. They learned the importance of establishing relationships with legislators, as well as strategies for developing policy plans and ways to incorporate lobbying into their organizational mission.

As Rev. David Beckmann puts it, “We cannot food bank our way out of hunger”—meaning that food banks and other charity organizations cannot be held solely responsible for ending hunger. With this in mind, Bread for the World is not a direct-service organization, though we urge lawmakers to end hunger. While we do not directly serve hungry and poor people from a charity standpoint, we recognize and appreciate the importance of organizations that are serving people who are hungry and poor today—people who are struggling to figure out what to feed their families for dinner and don’t have time to wait on Congress to determine the fate of their government assistance programs.

Direct-service organizations have a powerful voice as they help many families bridge the gap between going hungry and getting by. They see first-hand what the needs are in their communities. Often times, direct-service organizations help people understand their rights to and qualifications for various government assistance programs, and even teach them how to use assistance programs to make healthy, sustainable food decisions for their families. Taking a cue from the Capital Area Food Bank, I hope more direct-service organizations will be encouraged to take this holistic approach to ending hunger and use their voices to change legislation that renders people hungry and poor.


Kristen Youngblood is media relations specialist at Bread for the World.

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